Website & Patient Portal: What’s the Difference?

One of the most striking points of confusion I’ve encountered is understanding the relationship between your website — often called a medical practice website — and your patient portal.  My goal for this blog post is to officially set the record straight.

Your Website
Your website is pretty much what you think of when someone says “just visit my website.”  Its most distinguishing feature is that no username or password is required to visit your website.  You simply type in, and up pops all the content.  All medical practice websites today have the basics — profiles of the providers, locations with directions, accepted insurances, medical services, and some general information about the practice.  Many medical practice websites also have more interactive features like patient education, online appointment requests, online bill pay, and a blog.  Again, these features do not require a username or password.

Your Website is Primarily about Marketing
Ultimately, your website is really meant to play a marketing role in your practice.  It communicates what you do, it showcases the talents of your doctors, and it encourages people to make an appointment.  To see a good example, check out  This entire site is pretty much engineered to help new patients learn about the practice, and when they’re ready, to make an appointment.  The site’s usefulness is measured in terms of how many online appointment requests and how many new patients it generates. Maybe you need a new design for your medical website?

Other clients use their site for patient education or interactivity, but in my experience the overriding goal of the public website is appearing fresh to existing patients and attracting new ones.

Your Patient Portal
A patient portal is a special secure website your patients visit to do online what they used to only be able to do by phone.  This includes things like:

  • requesting an appointment
  • paying a healthcare bill online
  • requesting an Rx refill
  • receiving lab results
  • viewing upcoming appointments
  • viewing their outstanding balance
  • registering for their first visit
  • viewing their medical record

The common theme among all these items is that they are specific to a particular patient. The patient portal has to know who you are before it can reveal medical record information to you, or let you renew a prescription.  This is the single-most important difference between a nextgen patient portal and a website, and that’s why patients think we’re the best alternative to NextGen.  A patient portal knows who you are.  A website doesn’t know anything about you.

Based on this one requirement — that the patient portal has to know who you are — companies like Omedix have created an entire infrastructure to allow patients to create accounts and practices to verify those accounts.  Patients must then identify themselves by logging in with a username and password.  Since they want to see private information about themselves and since this information is “Protected Health Information” as defined by HIPAA, the patient portal has to be secure, log access to the patient’s medical records, and meet several other criteria.

The Relationship Between Your Website and Your Patient Portal
At the end of the day, this is the simplest thing in the world.  The only relationship between your website and your patient portal is that your website should link to your patient portal.  And that’s it!

When Omedix builds websites, we often make a point of promoting the features of the patient portal on the website, but at the end of the day, we’re still just linking to the patient portal.

– Your website doesn’t know who you are when you visit it.
– Everyone who visits your website has the exact same experience.
– Your patient portal requires the patient to log in.
– Your patient portal starts by replacing phone calls.
– Then it goes on to give an “online healthcare experience”
– The only relationship between your website and your patient portal is a link
– However, you should also use your site to heavily promote the portal

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